After the La Quinta Blackhawks lost their first game of the year against Chaparral High School in Temecula, Blackhawks head coach Dan Armstrong lamented his team’s inability to run the ball.
Armstrong had a smile on his face Friday night after his team ran for 516 yards, including 332 from Benji Cordova, in a 47-32 win in a key Desert Valley League varsity football game against Coachella Valley.
“I think we are getting better at running the ball, Benji being a big part of it,” Armstrong said. “Hopefully it will be an even bigger part when we get to the playoffs and we get (quarterback) Michael (Avina) back.”
The win on their home field gave the Blackhawks the clear advantage in the race for third place in the DVL and an automatic playoff bid. La Quinta is now 3-2 in league, 3-6 overall, while Coachella Valley dropped to 2-2 in league and 4-4 for the year.
“Proud as heck,” Coachella Valley head coach Brett Davis said. “You know, if we could clean up some mistakes, it might have been different. The football part of it, the execution part of it, I thought we did very well.”
The Arabs did enough early in the game to take a 12-0 lead over La Quinta on two touchdown passes from quarterback Darius Hulsey. But when Coachella Valley didn’t recover an onside kick the Arabs thought they had recovered, it gave La Quinta the ball on the Arabs 38. Five plays later La Quinta scored on an Andres Sanchez 6-yard run. After a blocked Coachella Valley punt, La Quinta quickly scored again, with Cordova running it in from three yards for a 13-12 lead.
Cordova broke a 97-yard scoring run on the Blackhawks’ next possession, but it was called back on a chop block penalty. La Quinta still scored on the drive on a lateral from quarterback Andrew Garcia to receiver Justin Anderson, who tossed a 32-yard pass to a wide-open Adam Kastner in the end zone for a 20-12 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Blackhawks began to power their way to the victory with Sanchez and Cordova chewing up chucks of yards. Cordova broke scoring runs of 60 and 46 yards, while Sanchez had an 82-yard scoring run.
“Me and my friend Andres, like every two plays we switch off, and whoever has the best day, well . . . .“ Cordova said with a smile.
“My line stepped up big tonight,” Cordova added. “I had big holes.”
Sanchez had 149 yards himself on 13 carries and the two touchdown runs.
Coacahella Valley refused to back down, getting three more scoring passes from Hulsey in the second half. The Arabs cut the lead to 40-32 with just 2:18 left on Juan Rodriguez’ second scoring catch of the game. But Cordova’s 46-yard score just 43 seconds later sealed the win for the Blackhawks.
Hulsey finished the night with 340 yards passing on 28 of 45 passes and the five touchdowns.
For Armstrong, the win might have pushed the Blackhawks to a 21st straight playoff berth, but the lackluster start still had him worried.
“I’ve been trying to figure out all year long about this team,” Armstrong said. “But I look at our bracket, and if Palm Springs is the No. 1 team in the bracket and they are a very good team and I know Serrano is a very good team, well, that’s fine. We can play with either one of those teams, especially if Michael (Avina) is back.”
Avina, who is battling back from a right knee injury, did dress for the game Friday night but did not take a snap.